As Florida ports prepare for heavier cargo traffic from the hotly-anticipated Panama Canal expansion, our inland counties are positioning themselves to take advantage of the state’s growing logistics industry. Here are some snapshots from around North Florida:
Proposal for transport improvements active in the Florida House
The Florida trade and logistics industry could grow by as many as 150,000 jobs over the next five years, said Congressman Lake Ray, state representative for district 12.
“We talk about changes in the Panama Canal and we talk about changes happening in our shipping environment and should look at them as opportunities to bring to our state,” he said.
To address future growth, the congressman is championing House Bill No. 3 – a proposal that would allow the state to prioritize funding for rail, airport, and other regional transportation improvement projects by designating freight logistics zones and evaluation criteria.
“The bill has already advanced through two legislative committees. If all approvals are met, the freight logistics zones could be established as early as July,” Ray said.
Foreign trade zone established in Progress Park
Alachua’s bustling biotechnology hub, Progress Park, recently received foreign trade zone (FTZ) status from the Jacksonville Port Authority. This designation will allow eligible park businesses to apply for cheaper tariffs on imported materials.
High-volume exporters like cyclodextrin chemicals manufacturer NanoSonics Products, Inc. could benefit from the lower tariff burden.
If approved for a FTZ designation, the NanoSonics plant could receive materials from a foreign manufacturer, process and repackage them, and ship them back without paying tariffs—unless the product was sold as a completed article of commerce in the U.S.
“[The FTZ designation] could potentially give us a tremendous competitive advantage,” said Dr. Jeffrey Tate, president and CEO for NanoSonics.
There are 20 FTZs in the state. Jacksonville Port Authority’s FTZ No. 64 (which now includes Progress Park) is the third-largest in terms of combined import and export trade value, according to port authority data.
In 2012, the zone’s exports totaled $95 million and U.S. commerce activity skyrocketed to more than $1.8 billion, said Lisa Diaz, foreign trade zone manager for the port. “The type of value running through foreign trade zones is higher than people expect,” she said.
Local chamber of commerce expands international trade support
The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce is now offering international trade consulting services as part of its Export Gainesville initiative.
Specialists from Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Commercial Service are available for business services at 300 E University Ave., Ste. 100 the first Wednesday of every month.
In 2012, the Gainesville Metropolitan Statistical Area accounted for $348.6 million in export trade (or 3.3 percent of the region’s gross domestic product)—according to the Gainesville Sun. While comparatively low, local exports have grown 49 percent since 2009.